When we think cybersecurity, for many, it has become synonymous with watching for dodgy links, avoiding scam emails, keeping an eye out for odd text messages, and having better passwords. While these are true (and important), cybersecurity does and should encompass any hardware, software or user that can make a connection to your network. Printers are one area which are often overlooked, particularly if you manage your IT network yourself, and you have a WiFi or network connected printer. We’ve put together our top tips for upping your printer security, and helping to prevent hackers from using it as an in…

What is the risk?

While many think of a printer as an ‘internal’ device, it is just as vulnerable to attack as any other hardware, perhaps more so if it isn’t part of your cybersecurity strategy. At the very basic level, printers often store large amounts of information, and unauthorised access to the printer can at the very least enable the sharing of these files. Think about what you print – tax details, financial records, invoices, bank details, employee information, personal information, and much more besides. As well as presenting a data privacy risk, these files also create an opportunity for data theft, data sale, impersonation, and even identity theft. Savvy hackers could use it to request payments from your business, represent your business to others, and impersonate your employees or clients.

Aside from the data storage risk, there is also the issue that your printer is networked i.e. it has access to PCs and other devices in your system, and possibly WiFi connected too. This means that potentially, it could be used to perform unauthorised printing (think fake invoices for example), and it is also connected to other computers, acting as an access point for a hacker.

How can you reduce the risk?

Make them part of your cybersecurity policy:

At the very basic step, any hardware that is or can connect to your network, must be included in your cybersecurity strategy. That means knowing how to manage the risk for each device, and of course implementing them. Every business should have a cybersecurity risk assessment, and should also be actively reviewing and implementing any risk mitigation.

Configure them properly

The simplest step you can take with a printer is to change the default password. Few people are aware that printers even have a password, but they do, and they will commonly be something like 0000 or 123456. These are easy to guess but also easy to change, so do it.

Always check your network

If you are printing, make sure you are connected to the business’ router, and not going through a ‘guest’ or ‘public’ network.

Install antivirus and firmware (if you need to)

Many printers come with antivirus / antimalware or firmware installed, but some do not. Make sure yours does, and if it doesn’t, or if the basic version is not fit for purpose, install it in line with the rest of your network. Printers are often targeted because they are the weak link and easy access to the network.

Keep up with updates

Printers are often out of sight, out of mind, so regardless of whether it came with firmware, or you installed it yourself, keep it updated. This means updating to the latest software versions, as well as installing the ad hoc security updates too.

Limit access

Ensure that the printer can only accept print requests from networks (and therefore devices) that you trust. There will be occasions when a guest or visitor needs to print, but these can be handled on a case by case basis, or done via a trusted device, rather than leaving your systems vulnerable.

Check your firewall

Every business should have a firewall as part of their cybersecurity. While this is not a step specific to your printer, it is a must. If you don’t have one, install one.

Encrypt your storage

When a print job is in transit and travels from a computer to a printer, hackers can intercept the data and exploit it. To keep this from happening, encrypt your print jobs. Also, make sure the sensitive data on your printer’s hard or internal drive is encrypted as well. Many printers already have this feature installed, but if they don’t, you can install an encryption tool which can remove employee IDs, user data, and automatically delete stored printed files after a specific time period has elapsed.

Educate your employees

Just like the rest of your cybersecurity, your employees can be a weak link. Anyone who uses, or has access to your printer therefore has a responsibility for how it is used and secured. It should be part of your training and cybersecurity standards, to ensure proper and safe use.

Get a shredder & check your printed files

Many data breaches happen because printed files are left on show, accidentally lost, or available to check. Good practice includes getting a shredder (or an external shredding service), and regularly disposing of confidential or personal records. This includes checking what’s been left behind on the printer where employees have forgotten what they’ve sent to print.

Get help

For many, these terms, or how to do it, may feel very overwhelming. We can help. Speak to our team on 01453 700 800 to see how we can support your cybersecurity for your printers, hardware, software and users.